By the time I stepped outside the leaves were on fire. Burning red and orange clusters piled around the park. I sighed and breathed in the cold crisp air. I sucked in the different smells of the different street vendors. I spotted a willow tree past a few park benches and knew that's where I could just relax. The crowd noises started to quiet as I got farther away. I chose a spot against the tree trunk and closed my eyes. I picked at the grass, the early morning sun shining on my face. I could feel the weight from previous sleepless nights lifted off my shoulders.
My eyes flew open, as I jolted out of my daze. I focused my eyes on a girl towering above me casting a tall dark shadow. She stared down at me, her eyes darting around.
“Hi.” I responded dumbly.
“Move.” The girl said, waving me away.
“What do you mean move? Is this your 'spot’?”
She made a face and nodded.
I threw my hands up and jumped up, “fine! I’ll leave.” I stormed off, kicking up clumps of grass.
She had to ruin the moment huh? I was perfectly fine on that side of the tree. It's a big tree lady, just sit on the other side!
I started to stomp towards the exit when I caught a glance of the girl scribbling down notes in an odd note book.
The girl was annoying, yet I was curious and my mind got the best of me.
I walked over to a man selling newspapers and slipped him $2 and grabbed the newspaper off the stack.
I flipped open the newspaper and stalked over to a park bench across from the tree. It was a large willow tree that's leaves drooped down, dying from the cool fall air.
The girl had pulled out a small book, its cover was ripped and beaten up. A small smile spread across her face. She closed her eyes and rested her hand on the book.
I tried to get a better look at her face, but she hid behind her long wavy red hair.
The girl glanced up and I snapped down reading a new section. I peeked up from behind the newspaper and was relieved when I saw she had started reading.
She glanced up again and before I could duck behind the newspaper, she gave me a nasty look. “Stop staring.” She snapped. “It's rude.”
I pursed my lips and nodded, but didn't look away. She had a curious thing about her that I couldn't put my finger on.
I knotted my fingers together, her piercing blue eyes locked with mine.
We sat there silently, not breaking away, having a staring contest. After about 30 seconds I broke away when I thought I felt her eyes enter my soul.
She smirked and started to put her book away and leave the park.
I jumped up and followed her, “don't suppose you have a name?” I asked. I saw her roll her eyes, and speed up her pace.
“Yes, not that you need to know. You are aware how creepy your acting, right? ”
I matched her pace, “just want to know whose spot I took.”
The girl stopped, and I’m sure I saw a small smile spread across her face.
“Only if you tell me yours first,” she said and started to walk again.
I nodded, “I’m Evan. Your turn.”
The girl stopped in front of a tall metal wall, and started to put a pass code into some sort of security device. The lock clicked open and the girl smiled. She grabbed the lock of the door and slipped it into her back pocket.
“Nice to meet you Evan. I’m Presley.”
I nodded, “too fancy for a key?”
She laughed and opened the medal gate. “No need when you have security.” Presley started to walk through before turning back and saying, “remember whose spot that is.” Then slammed the gate closed.
I stood in front of the gate, realizing that I didn't recognize this part of town. What I’m assuming is Presley's house was guarded by a tall medal wall. It was at least 10 feet tall. There was barbed wire lined at the top and a single lock, previously clipped to the gate. Why Presley had taken the lock with her made no sense. I stood on my tiptoes to try to get a better look at the house, but couldn't see over the wall. I looked around, there were no there houses around, it was like a dead end. There was no sidewalk, no grass, just an empty cul de sac. I almost felt like there once had been other houses but they had been wiped away. And now it was just Presley's house.
As I walked out of the cul de sac and tried to find my way back to the park, I started to wonder about Presley.
If she had so much security she was probably rich. But if she was rich why did she have such a gross book, and such tattered clothes? Presley had been wearing jeans that looked unintentionally ripped, an old t-shirt with a graphic design from the 90’s and beat up sneakers with a hole near the big toe. I thought about the encounter with Presley all the way home.
I reached for my key out of my pocket and when the only thing I felt was my phone my heart skipped a beat. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, “it's probably just in the other pocket.”
I opened my eyes and reached into my other pocket. Nothing. I had lost my key. My heart started to pound thumping against my chest. Desiree’s gonna kill me. My head told me as I ran off the front porch. I turned left and ran all the way back to the park.
The sun was going down and there was a harsh pink light that burned my eyes, the wind pressed against my face.
When I got to the park I ran over to the willow tree and grabbed my phone. I started typing out a long message to Desiree when I heard a familiar voice.
“That's my spot.” I looked up, and there was Presley in her tattered clothes with an old backpack swung over her shoulder.
I scooted over enough so she could have her 'spot’ and watched as she sat down and rummaged through her pack.
She looked up every so often, and I frowned when I noticed her eyes. I remembered back to earlier, her deep blue eyes as fierce as ever, as if there was a hot blue flame in them, and now, there was fear, and panic, and something else. Her eyes darted around and her eyebrows were scrunched together. It was like she was a whole other person. As if that blue flame had been snuffed out.
“Need any help?” I asked. Presley jumped and whipped her hands out of her pack. She shook her head then started to search in her pack again.
“I uh can't find my key,” she mumbled.
I laughed, “guess you and I are in the same situation.”
Presley lifted her head and took a shaky breath.
“I’m fine, I just, was supposed to be home a while ago.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes before Presley took her phone out her pack and started to stand up.
“My mom's home now, so I’m good to go.”
I nodded, my breathing had slowed down and I could see straight again. There was a calming nature to Presley that seemed to release my stress.
Presley waved and ran off, disappearing into the dark.
I deleted my text and scooted back over to where Presley had been sitting.
I stared up at the stars, the sky seeming endless.
“I knew I’d find you here.”
“Hey Desiree.” I said, not needing to move to know who it was.
“C’mon let's go, you're in trouble once we get back.”
I sat up and nodded.
My mind flashed with Presley's street name, and I had a sudden curiosity to know more.
“Have you ever been down Imber street?” I asked, I saw Desiree make a face out of the corner of my eye, illuminated by a street lamp.
“Never even heard of Imber street. Maybe you’ve got your streets mixed up.”
I shook my head, “cant. I’ve got a perfect memory.”
Desiree held up a finger and laughed, “almost perfect.”
I rolled my eyes, “whatever.”
We stayed quiet for a while. I stared down at Desiree’s feet and matched her steps.
“So Evan if you do have a perfect memory, what's Imber street?”
“Nowhere important, one of my..uh friends lives there.” I waited for Desiree to push why I had stumbled but she didn't, caught in her own thoughts I guess.
I started to turn the corner on Andover but Desiree grabbed my arm.
“We’re not going home.” I met Desiree’s eyes, and she nodded. “We’re going to head quarters.” Desiree walked about 5 paces ahead of me, and I kept watch.
In training we were told that at night you are what your surroundings are. I imagined myself as a night cat sneaking around.
We reached a tall chain link metal fence with another fence behind it.
Desiree punched in the code, and stuffed the lock in her pocket.
I jumped as another memory flashed in my head. A crisp picture of Presley putting in a code to the lock, “too fancy for a key?” “No need when you have security.” I squeezed my eyes shut. Presley lied. She didn't have a key. But she did have mine.
“You coming?” I looked up. Desiree was far ahead of me unlocking another door. My mind fought with itself turning the idea round and round.
“Yeah, I’m coming.” I finally said after minutes of consideration.
Desiree frowned at me, but did not push it and walked through the second door.
I stayed close as we flew down the dark stairs. Hundreds of them, no torches, no light, just you in the dark. I had forgotten the trek to headquarters. It’d been a while since I had been. For some weird reason I missed the old musty underground smell of headquarters.
When we reached the bottom there was a single torch, and 5 doors. Desiree quickly unlocked the door farthest to the right. I bit my lip and followed, knowing what was coming next.
It was a long hallway to where we were going which gave me time to sort out my thoughts before I met my doom.
I was mad at Presley. I had barely known her for a day and she stole my key. I racked my brain for any moment that told me that she definitely stole my key. I couldn't find any evidence, but I knew she took it. I just knew. It was like my almost perfect memory had thrown away the one piece of information I needed. A new question formed in my head, where was my key? When Presley had sat down, she said she was looking for a key. Really she said her key, but that's irrelevant. Did that mean Presley had lost my key? But then who had it?
My insides boiled with different emotions, worry, fear, anger. I wished I could dump all of them out and start over. Start everything over.
I almost ran into Desiree who was straightening out her long black dress and combing through her frizzy brown hair. I met her eyes, and the small smile she gave me, provided a sliver of hope.
“You’ll be fine.” I nodded, and she grabbed my hand, gave it a small squeeze then turned away and walked back down the hallway.
Then it was just me. I took a deep breath, raised a shaky hand and knocked. I waited for someone to answer, knotting my fingers together, busying my mind.
After about 10 minutes, a tall man with a shadowy face opened the door and led me in.
At the smell of his office I shivered. I had always hated the smell, it reminded me of old books and cigars, yet it had a sense of power to it. The man sat down in his tall chair and gestured for me to sit down on the chair in front of him. The only thing separating us was the long wooden desk piled with files and papers.
I had known this man since I was 4 years old, yet he still seemed like a stranger. Only ever known as Sir. His old wrinkled face always had a stern look. But you rarely saw his face, hidden by a dark billowing cloak. He sighed and rested his head on his hand.
“Evan. What is your goal? There are strict rules if you wish to stay in this group you must be home and in bed by curfew. 9:30. It's not that hard Evan, why do you always press the rules? You're 14 years old, you know better.”
I nodded along and studied him closely.
“I’m sorry Sir. It won't happen again.”
He rubbed his hands over his face and closed his eyes.
“You say that every time. The real question is, do you really mean it?”
I nodded and he cocked his head like he didn't believe me. He leaned in and said in a hushed voice, “you know about the girl don't you?”
I choked and started to shake my head. “Wh-what girl?”
I knew it was a lost cost lying to him, but how did he know about Presley?
“Now now, Evan. We’re not going to lie are we?”
I took a shaky breath, sat up straighter in the rigid metal chair and shook my head. “No Sir.”
He smiled. “Good, now, you admit that you do know about Presley Aliser?”
“She stole your key didn't she?”
I looked into his eyes, gray and cold. How did he know?
“I believe so Sir.”
He nodded his head and grinned, “smart boy. That's all we need. Go home, Desiree will help you in, and follow that curfew from now on.”
I shook my head, I needed more information, more answers.
“What am I supposed to do about Presley?” He looked at me, his eyes filled with pity. “We’ll handle the girl, you just watch your house, and get your key back. And don't let on what you know.” I nodded, “thank you Sir.” He nodded and led me out the door.
“Desiree is waiting at the end of the hall. I truly hope that we don't have to have this sort of talk again.”
“Yes Sir.” I started to walk off when I stopped myself with one last question. “Sir, who is she?” I turned around and watched him, his hand grasping the door knob.
“She is an agent, just like you working for somewhere else. Doing her mission just like you do yours. Please don't worry about it, we will handle it.”
“Why me? Why not someone with higher standards?” I asked.
“I don't know Evan. I don't know. Have a good night.” I nodded and started the long walk to Desiree. Had Sir gone soft? Something seemed off.
I reached the end of the hallway quicker than I thought and panicked when Desiree wasn't there. I looked around for Desiree.
“Desiree?” I called.
The only thing I heard was the echo of my voice.
“Desiree!” I called again.
I raced up the stairs, tears I was gulping down stinging my eyes.
“Desiree!!” I shouted.
I stepped back into the cold alleyway, the brisk fall air swallowing me. I tried to steady my breathing but it was no use. I felt an icy hand on my arm and whipped around, “Desi-Presley?” There stood Presley in a dark cloak, her fiery red hair pulled back. “You need to come with me.”